Thursday, July 19, 2012

Spiritual Guidance

The world we live in longs for what lies at the heart of things. We search in vain for something to satisfy our wants and needs. But the great need within is the longing of the heart for the Love above all Loves.

Seek within that kingdom where reigns the Love of God for you, then you will find your love of God. And the wonder will widen to a love and respect for yourself as you then discover how to love and respect others.

It is all that is missing.

Here are some thoughts on Spiritual Guidance.

Spiritual Guidance:
Companionship for the Inner Journey

by Beth O'Brien, Oblate of Holy Wisdom Monastery & Spiritual Guide

In her beautiful poem, The Invitation, contemporary poet Gunilla Norris sublimely pens the stirrings of the heart:

Can we recognize that now and then
There comes an inner sense,
A fleeting thought, a little yearning
To live our lives differently?

We don’t know what this means or what it requires…

Could we sense that this longing is not lack…
Could we receive it as an invitation instead,
A calling, a small voice, inviting us home,
Back to our true self?

What do you long for? What is your deepest desire? John O’Donohue, in his book Beauty, reflects, “We long to be drawn to the center where we encounter no less than Divine Mystery, where our inner beauty and true-self are revealed.” (1) This brings us to a place of contemplative theology, the longing of the soul.

Spiritual guidance begins with a yearning for a deeper relationship with God—and the understanding that reflecting on your life and prayer with a skilled and experienced spiritual guide can help you satisfy that longing. (2) From the great abbas and ammas of the desert tradition—to the women and men who serve as spiritual guides in today’s society—people have come to realize the value of traveling with another, of breaking through the lonesomeness of the journey, in order to awaken to the fullness of Love.

O’Donohue understands:

“Normally, the priority in our culture is to function and do what is expected of us. So many people feel deep dissatisfaction and an acute longing for a more real life, a life that allows their souls to come to expression and to awaken…No one wants to remain a prisoner in an unlived life. This was the intention of Jesus: ‘I have come that you may have life and have it to the full.’” (3)

Also named a spiritual director or spiritual companion, a spiritual guide primarily serves as a holy listener—knowing that it is the Holy Spirit who is, truly, the guide. In this one-on-one, faith-centered, confidential relationship, the focus of the dialogue is the presence and action of God in the daily life experiences of the one coming for spiritual guidance—and their response to it.

Spiritual guides typically meet once a month for an hour, although some people find meeting more often helpful during times of transition, discernment, or loss. As the spiritual guidance relationship develops over time, “quietly, compassionately, spiritual guides take the soul by the hand, helping a seeker tap deeper dimensions”. (3)

“Spiritual direction (guidance) is like panning for gold,” writes internationally known author and spiritual guide, Janet Ruffing, RSM, “A directee comes and together we dip into the stream of their life and pull up all kinds of things…rocks of all sizes…I can never guess what’s coming up next—all kinds of conflicts and problems. Then all of a sudden some fleck or nugget of pure gold emerges into view in the bottom of the pan as we swirl the water around, emptying out the rocks.” (4)

While spiritual guidance is not psychotherapy or counseling, the very same “moments of one’s life” are shared and reflected on. Within the distinct dimension of a God-focus, spiritual guidance is a time to notice where God is trying to break into your own sacred life story—to come to know God’s stirrings, to open to Mystery. It is a safe space to talk about prayer, your daily life, or your spiritual journey without fear of judgment.

Simply named, spiritual guidance is listening for and reverencing the Holy within all. It is a spiritual practice to awaken to God’s loving presence in our very life stories. It is an invitation to enter into the very heart of what St. Paul wrote of in his letter to the Ephesians:

May God grant that you be strengthened in your
inner being with power through the Spirit. (Eph 3:16)
The Spirit working in us can accomplish far more
than we can ask or imagine. (Eph 3:20)

And may God bless your coming in and your going out this time and forevermore.
Fr. Paul

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